GLEN JEAN, W.Va.
For LDS young men and adults attending the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in southern Virginia during its 10-day run in late July, the Church’s presence could be found in some of the usual, visible places and in the usual, apparent ways — a Sunday morning sacrament meeting for several thousand, a popular exhibit at the Duty to God and Country pavilion, and a guiding presence at two prominent merit badge booths.
As such, spiritual messages and reassurances were available through participation at the worship service and firesides and at the exhibit and booths, with planning, materials, resources and staffing provided by the Church’s Family History and Temple departments under the direction of the Young Men general presidency.
But similar messages of encouragement and counsel and reminders of potential and promise were also on the move, going beyond the aforementioned set locations. Those messages and reminders were taken to the few and to the one by Church leaders and LDS chaplains through in-camp visits and one-on-one interactions by volunteers staffing the exhibit and booths.
“We want to give them a heart-bump — we want them to feel the Spirit,” said Jim Greene of Family History’s priesthood and area support division. He may have been speaking specifically about the efforts at the Genealogy merit badge booth, but those “heart-bumps” carried over to the other locations and through the personal interactions.
At the Church’s Duty to God and Country exhibit, visitors could earn the 2017 Compass Award. The physical award, on a band to be worn around the neck, featured a metal ring encompassing a spinning, ball-like compass, with the phrase “Decisions determine destiny” inscribed around the ring.
Beyond the physical award, the spiritual reward came as LDS and non-LDS Scouts and leaders fulfilled requirements and electives, some of which included visiting the Genealogy and Family Life merit badge booths, making new friends, sharing one’s testimony, attending sacrament services, watching brief videos and memorizing both James 1:5-6 and a short quote on God’s encompassing love from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency.
The intent is to have exhibit visitors consider life’s purpose and basic fundamentals through a brief, simple exposure to the plan of salvation, said Stan Child, who helped staff the Compass Award area. “They feel something here,” he added.
Ben Ivins, 15, of Taylorsville, Utah, reflected on the values associated with the Compass Award. “I might lose this later, but I’ll never forget it,” he said of the physical award and the efforts to earn it. “It will help shape us in whatever we do in the future — our missions, our education, our families.”
Ben Francis, a 20-year-old from Kaysville, Utah, had attended two previous jamborees as a youth. This time, less than two weeks after returning from his full-time mission to Denmark, he assisted in staffing the Compass Award exhibit. And the highlight of his third jamboree? “I think all the wonderful teaching opportunities I’ve had here and the discussions I’ve had about God with Scouts of other faiths,” he answered.
At the large Genealogy tent area, Scouts could work on requirements — and actually earn the merit badge at the jamboree. Individuals filled out pedigree and group sheets, conducted interviews with a parent or grandparent over cell phones, “toured” a genealogical repository by watching a five-minute video detailing the Granite Mountain Records Vault in the canyons east of Salt Lake City and discovered online records at an improvised family history center, complete with a dozen PCs connected to a direct, high-speed Internet line.
“This is where those big heart-bumps occur,” said Greene of boys — often in tears — as they found historical documents of grandparents or other deceased ancestors through family history records. “They’re seeing people they haven’t met before.”
Added Brent Summerhays, also of the Family History Department: “It’s truly a tent in the wilderness — one to feel the spirit of Elijah.”
The Family Life booth tent replicated a home of sorts, as requirements were posted enabling Scouts to work on them in a makeshift living room, family room and kitchen. Visitors could get a good start on the merit badge, which is mandatory in order to earn the Eagle Scout rank, but it required more time involvement in individual and family projects at home in order to be completed.
A spiritual highlight for LDS jamboree participants was Sunday’s sacrament meeting services, with talks from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president. The sacrament was administered to some 2,100 sitting on a grassy hillside by 60 priests and 180 deacons, with Elder Holland later teaching the importance of the ordinance and the key roles of Aaron Priesthood holders. (See accompanying story.)
Church leaders and chaplains also aided in individual and small-group visits, including in-camp interactions and discussions, where they met with Scouts to celebrate successions, to uplift and to counsel regarding homesickness and individual concerns.
Brother Owen underscored the importance of activities and associations for young men. “Relationships matter — you just can’t just expect a young man to come to class and just learn,” he told the Church News during his three-day visit to the jamboree. “There has to be a balanced approach — you have the spiritual side, but you also need the social and the physical and the intellectual things that we work on with the young men.”
Brother Douglas D. Holmes, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency, made evening visits to sub-camp sites where smaller LDS groups of Scouts gathered, having come from all across the country and other international areas.
In several visits with Scouts from North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, California and Hawaii one night, he encouraged the young men to continue to make connections in remaining strong in the gospel — connection with good friends, parents and family members and leaders. “They’ll be anchors for you when times get tough,” he said.
He also encouraged them to stay connected with heaven through the Holy Ghost and to be more than just self-confident in life. “If I could encourage you to do one thing, it would be to develop God-confidence,” Brother Holmes said, playing on the Scout tradition of trading patches by encouraging his listeners “to trade your strength for God’s strength.”